The Scarborough Hospital should shelve a proposed division of services and use an “across-the-board five-per-cent cut to all departments and programs” instead to balance its 2013 budget, says a community group hosting a public forum Thursday. Feb. 28.
The hospital’s board of directors will be asked next Tuesday, March 5, to divide surgical services between its two campuses and approve merging its two birthing and pediatric centres on a single campus.
Friends of The Scarborough Hospital stated this week these proposals are “desperate measures” meant to erase a $17-million shortfall by April and decisions on them shouldn’t be made until after a new, “meaningful and substantive consultation” with all hospital stakeholders.
The board’s Community Advisory Council (CAC), meanwhile, decided on Monday it wants to keep Maternal Newborn and Child Care departments at both the Birchmount and General campuses, but if the board chooses one location for a merged Women and Children’s Health “Centre of Excellence” it must at be the Birchmount.
Locating the centre at the smaller Birchmount Road campus means more specialists and staff will be on hand to support a viable emergency department there, Denis Lanoue, the CAC’s vice chairperson, said later.
TSH administrators say they don’t know yet where the single-campus birthing centre will be, but consolidating day surgery at the Birchmount and more complex, longer-stay surgery at the General makes sense under a new provincial funding formula which rewards larger, more efficient surgical units.
Lanoue said members of his 10-person committee know changes must take place at TSH. “We know the $17 million (shortfall) is real,” he said Wednesday.
Friends of TSH - organizers of the Feb. 28 forum from 7 to 9 p.m. at L’Amoreaux Collegiate on Bridletowne Circle - also say the group isn’t trying to keep the hospital from making cuts.
“This is not an antagonistic meeting” called for Thursday, said Pat Sherman, a Friends spokesperson. “We’re there to provide an opportunity for the community to ask questions.”
A statement from the group this week suggested the five-per-cent cuts, which Sherman said is a portion of the TSH budget equal to $17 million, as a stopgap until there are more public discussions and a new hospital CEO, Robert Biron, assumes his office.
It was unclear at press time if any hospital officials would join a panel at the forum. In a message, Toni Adey, a spokesperson, said the hospital had “requested additional information on format and are awaiting a response.”
Sherman said hospital board members, physicians, local MPPs and city councillors have also been invited to the meeting and it “would be a slap in the face to the community” if TSH executives don’t attend.
“I don’t think they can afford not to attend,” he said.
At last count, 125 physicians associated with the hospital have signed a letter warning the proposals to the board will cause the smaller Birchmount to deteriorate into “a glorified walk-in clinic,” particularly if maternal and child services are removed.
TSH executives have said their paramount goal is maintaining emergency rooms on both campuses as 24-hour operations. A consultant’s report last year found merging the birthing centres can save $4-5 million a year.
Both are under capacity “which means taxpayers are paying for these centres to be under utilized,” said Glenn De Baeremaeker, a Scarborough Centre councillor and new member of the CAC.
De Baeremaeker said he understands residents are concerned for the hospital but the proposals are part of a larger change in Ontario’s medical system.
“Yes, changes are coming but I think these changes are for the better,” said the councillor, who also supports the advisory body’s choice of campus for a merged birthing centre.
“It keeps the Birchmount campus alive, vibrant and healthy.”
Adey said the number of employees who will be approved for early-retirement packages at the hospital, another part of its deficit-cutting, is still undetermined.
“This work will begin once the board of directors makes a decision regarding the proposed options” next week, she said.